The Daily Fix: Clean Up a Keyboard Spill
by Diane Rixon, Posted Feb 11th 2010 2:30PM
I live in fear of a spill happening near my precious computer. All it takes is a cup of hot coffee, sticky soda, or even water to render my keyboard useless.
But the truth is, if you act fast and you’re lucky, your keyboard can be salvaged. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Shut off or unplug the computer. If the keyboard is a separate device, disconnect it from the computer immediately.
  2. Turn the unit upside down so that it can drain. Do this before running off to find paper towels or some other absorbent cleanup aid.
  3. Pat dry every accessible surface with paper towels, paper napkins … heck, use your shirt if you have to. If only plain water was spilled, just leave the keyboard to dry. If you spilled something hot and sticky, however, you’ll have more work to do.
  4. If it’s a laptop, remove the battery.
  5. Do not rinse your laptop. Just let it dry out. As for computer keyboards that have been disconnected from a desktop computer, prepare to be shocked: not only can they be hand washed, some say you can even put computer keyboards through the dishwasher. Just be certain your device is 100% dry before reconnecting it.
  6. Laptops need to be cleaned the slow way. Same goes for computer keyboards if you don’t want to risk the water-rinsing method. Gently pop off the keys one-by-one using a flat-head screwdriver for gentle leverage. Using cotton swabs or a toothbrush, clean the exposed surface with isopropyl alcohol.
  7. If anything sticky made it inside the laptop, an internal cleanup will be required. If you’re not a techie, play it safe and call an expert for help. In the meantime, keep your laptop upside down or tilted in a warm, sunny location or near a heat source.

Tip: Never use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process; static damage could result. Also, in the case of a bad spill, the incoming blast of hot air could actually drive the mess further into the machine.
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